Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charles Dickens

Today marks the 200th year since the birth of Charles Dickens, born Feb 7, 1812 in England and passed over to the Other Side June 9, 1870.  Considered the greatest of the Victorian authors, Mr. Dickens was one of many authors who at that time wrote stories for serialization, and to keep the readers interested he had to write in cliffhangers.  This would bring the readers back the next time.  Thus, he became quite accomplished in this art.

Charles Dickens also wrote poetry.  One of his poems can be found at the end of this article.  He was buried in Poet's Corner of Westminister Abbey.  What an honor for a man who truly deserved it.

Charles Dickens was a master at creating unique characters.  To say his stories are realistic is to understate his writings.  Just read 'A Tale of Two Cities' and try to forget the many horrendous scenes he paints in that book.  He wrote about the upheaval in France when the population had had enough and overthrew the government, resulting in the beheading of 16,000 to 40,000 by use of the guillotine while crowds of people cheered.  He painted the hatred and the anger of citizens better than any other author could.

In 1842, Charles Dickens and his wife made a trip to the U.S. where he gave lectures, raising support for copyright laws and taking a stand on the abolishment of slavery, documenting the atrocities.  In his work 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' he includes notes of his condemnation of slavery.

In 1846 Mr. Dickens set up a home for woman (Urania Cottage) for the redemption of fallen women.  Up until then the women were put into homes that were harsh with cruel punishments.  The idea of Urania Cottage was to teach these women basic skills like reading and writing and domestic household chores so they could be re-integrated into society.  He even scoured prisons looking for women he thought could succeed in his program.  It is estimated that at least 100 women graduated from this program.  Many of his female characters developed from the women he met while interviewing them.

His great works include:  A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and The Pickwick Papers, among others.

Dickens was truly a humanitarian with a deeper understanding of our mortal minds and the world around him than the majority of do-gooders.

Here are a few of my favorite Charles Dickens quotes:

Noone is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known - from 'A Tale of Two Cities'

We need never be ashamed of our tears - from 'Great Expectations'

Grief never mended no broken bones - from 'Sketches by Boz'

There is a passion for hunting deeply implanted in the human breast - from 'Oliver Twist'

Marley was dead, to begin with - A Christmas Carol

A passage from 'A Tale of Two Cities:'

-In a city dominated by the axe, alone at night, with natural sorrow rising in him for the sixty-three who that day had been put to death, and for tomorrow's victims then awaiting their doom in the prisons, and still of tomorrow's and tomorrow's, the chain of association that brought the words home, like a rusty old ship's anchor from the deep, might have been easily found.  He did not seek it but repeated them and went on.-

Lucy's Song by Charles Dickens:

How beautiful at eventide
To see the twilight shadows pale,
Steal o'er the landscape, far and wide,
O'er stream and meadow, mound and dale!

How soft is Nature's calm repose
When ev'ning skies their cool dews weep:
The gentlest wind more gently blows,
As if to soothe her in her sleep!

The gay morn breaks,
Mists roll away,
All Nature awakes
To glorious day.
In my breast alone
Dark shadows remain;
The peace it has known
It can never regain.

Now, you know I can't end this without a youtube video or two, so first we have a scene from that marvelous musical, Oliver.

The next youtube is my absoulte favorite movie scene ever, from the musical Camelot with the brilliant actor Richard Harris as King Arthur, who himself sparkles through our Universe.

From the musical Camelot came this line:

PELLINORE: Who is that, Arthur?
ARTHUR: One of what we all are, Pelly. Less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. (He smiles. There is jubilance in his voice) But it seems some of the drops sparkle, Pelly. Some of them do sparkle!

Indeed, is there anyone who would refute that Charles Dickens did and does sparkle through the motion of our Universe for now and for eternity.

And you know what, my dear friends?  Each and every one of us do sparkle too.  Each and every one of us.

Celebrate Charles Dickens' 200th year by reading one of his great stories.

LHR, friends.  PAWS for Success, and sparkle as brightly as you can.



Jess@The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow said...

What a fantastic post! I have ready many of his works and know some of them better than others. I am a big fan of Oliver Twist- the book and musical. So fun! I loved singing along with the youtube video. I also very much enjoyed the poem and I wasn't familiar with it prior to reading your post.

I have a A Tale of Two Cities to read- a friend just gave it to me as a little gift. It is one of his that I haven't read. I look forward to it!

Donna Yates said...

Jess, thank you for your comment. You and I just have so much in common when it comes to literature. Enjoy 'A Tale of Two Cities.' It is one of his more powerful stories.

The Desert Rocks said...

Thanks for the memories Donna. I used to enjoy Dickens, but he kind of lost me at Bleak House. I guess I should re-visit some of the other classics!

Sharon's Sunlit Memories said...

Wonderful post Donna - you have put so much thought into it. Dickens' writing is truly awe inspiring and the older I get the more I marvel at how astutely he describes the human condition. It is also incredible to think how little we have changed.

The only thing I can never seem to be able to come to terms with is the way he treated his own wife. It is very difficult to reconcile the writer of such sublime and compassionate prose with such callous and seemingly indifferent cruelty.

Donna Yates said...

The Desert Rocks, thank you for your comment. I always feel it is best to read the classics again. We forget so much.

Donna Yates said...

Sharon, thank you for your comment and for bringing this to light. It is really hard to know why, 200 years later, he treated his wife as he did. We know he was driven for success, and having grown up poor, he over-valued every cent he had. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind, but I've often wondered about mental illness as a factor. And sadly, so many out to save the world, are cruelest to those closest to them. Thank you for pointing this out.

Kelly Hashway said...

I took an undergrad course on Dickens. We read Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Oliver Twist, and many others. While some over the books were very long, they were all enjoyable. Happy birthday, Mr. Dickens. :)

Donna Yates said...

Kelly, thank you for your comment. His writings are excellent to study.

Elizabeth Maginnis said...

Your quote from "A Tale of Two Cities" is a favorite of mine.

Donna Yates said...

Elizabeth, thank you for your comment. It has always been a favorite of mine. Amazing story.

Barbara said...

Hello Donna,
Great Expectations is my all time favourite. I like this quote from Little Dorrit (I think!)A person who can't pay gets another person who can't pay to guarantee that he can pay. Like a person with two wooden legs getting another person with two wooden legs to guarantee that he has got two natural legs. It don't make either of them able to do a walking-match. I just love that. Great post, Donna

Lena Winfrey Seder said...


Excellent post! Dickens is truly a great writer. I really didn't know he was such a humanitarian. Wow! Amazing man! Thanks Donna for sharing all of this information with us and posting his poem. Take care!

Donna Yates said...

Barbara, thank you for your comment and for that quote. I think Dickens had many good quotes in his works.
Lena, thank you for your comment. Yes, he was quite the humanitarian.

Joleene Naylor said...

Excellent post! he was quite a writer, back when there was more attention pad to the words and less to the marketing and the zoom-zoom-zoom action pace. :)

Donna Yates said...

Joleene, thank you for your comment. You are so right. Wouldn't it be great if we as writers had more time to write?